Wisconsin sues ‘forever chemicals’ makers for ‘widespread contamination’

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Wisconsin has filed a lawsuit against 18 companies for manufacturing and marketing toxic “eternal chemicals,” alleging the companies engaged in the “widespread contamination” of state “property and natural resources.”

“Every Wisconsinite should be able to trust the water that comes out of their tap,” Gov. Tony Evers (D) said during a live news conference Wednesday morning.

“But sadly, we know for so many people in our state, including people right here on the French island, that’s not always the case,” Evers said.

Evers was speaking in the town of La Crosse on French Island — an island in the Mississippi River that has long seen such contamination, according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

These cancer-related compounds, also known as perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), are known for their long-term ability to persist both in the human body and in the environment.

“The state is suing three manufacturers and 15 other defendants for wrongful and deceptive acts that directly led to PFAS contamination of Wisconsin water, property and natural resources,” Evers said.

The lawsuit, filed by Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul in Dane County, alleges that the defendants knew or should have known that the ordinary and intended use of their products could have dangerous effects on public health and the environment. .

“The science is clear: exposure to certain PFASs and the environment can be detrimental to human health,” Evers said.

There are thousands of types of PFAS, which are most infamous for their presence in industrial landfills and fire-fighting foams, but are also key ingredients in many household items. PFASs are linked to various diseases, such as thyroid disease, testicular cancer, and kidney cancer.

Among the defendants named are 3M, DuPont, The Chemours Company and Tyco Fire Products. Others include EI du Pont de Nemours and Company, The Chemours Company FC, Buckeye Fire Equipment, Kidde-Fenwal, National Foam, Chemguard, Amerex Corporation, Chemdesign Products, BASF Corporation, Dynax Corporation, Archroma US, Carrier Global Corporation, UTC Fire & Security Americas Corporation and Clariant Corporation.

The lawsuit alleges that these companies “are responsible for the design, manufacture, marketing, promotion, distribution, sale, use and/or disposal of PFAS products in a manner that cause widespread PFAS contamination”.

“These manufacturers knew or should have known that their products could harm public health, pollute our waters and our natural resources,” Evers said.

“But rather than warning consumers and users of the risks and harms associated with their products and PFAS, these polluters have covered up these dangers and even downplayed them for our families, our communities and our Wisconsin residents,” said added the governor.

Accusing the companies of “negligence” and his political opponents of “inaction”, Evers said Wisconsin taxpayers are now “paid over $1 billion” to fight the contamination.

The lawsuit also alleges that the defendants “took steps to protect the health of their own employees, but failed to inform the public of the danger that PFAS contamination has caused over the past several years in Wisconsin,” according to Kaul, who spoke alongside the governor. .

While the attorney general emphasized that the most important tool to address Wisconsin’s PFAS crisis would be federal and state action and funding, he said he hoped to achieve several goals through the lawsuit.

The plaintiffs ask that the defendants be compelled to help solve the problem by taking steps to provide clean and safe drinking water to affected communities, Kaul explained.

The lawsuit also seeks to recover all costs, expenses and damages related to their alleged “tortious conduct”, which includes restoration and loss of use damages, damage to natural resources and the costs of investigation and repair of statewide PFAS pollution.

“Wisconsins shouldn’t have to foot the bill for polluters who should have known what they were doing was wrong all along,” Evers said.

“That’s why we demand that responsible polluters pay for reckless and reprehensible driving,” the governor added.

In response to the filing, a statement from DuPont de Nemours said the company was formed in 2019 “as a new multi-industry specialty products company” and that it had never manufactured fire-fighting foam or two specific types of PFAS: PFOA and PFOS.

“While we do not comment on pending litigation, we believe this complaint is without merit and is the latest example of DuPont de Nemours being misnamed in litigation,” the statement added, noting that the company would vigorously defend its “record of safety, health and environmental stewardship.

A statement from 3M, meanwhile, said the company “has acted responsibly in its manufacture and sale of PFAS and will vigorously defend its record of environmental stewardship.”

The Hill has also reached out to Chemours and Tyco for comment.

Update: 12:50 p.m.


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